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Businesses take drastic measures to guard against rampant shoplifting and theft by organized crime

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Retail theft has skyrocketed in recent years, creating a multibillion-dollar problem for retailers and forcing companies to take drastic measures to protect themselves from lost profits.

Countless pharmacies, grocery stores and other retailers have reduced store opening hours or been forced to close permanently as locked merchandise becomes commonplace to guard against shoplifting and destructive thieves.

“It has to do with all the shoplifting,” a Walgreens clerk told Fox Business last month about why ice cream freezers were secured with chains and padlocks.

Crime weighed heavily on retailers across the country, costing businesses an estimated $94.5 billion, the National Retail Federation said last month. This has affected businesses large and small, with Target reporting a 50% increase in shoplifting incidents last year, representing a staggering $400 million in losses.

NYC WALGREENS STORE KEEPING ICE CREAM IN THE FREEZER ON CHAINS, LOCKING CANDY AMIDST CONTINUOUS SHOPPING FRENESIS

Ice cream locked in the freezer in a store

Candy and ice cream are locked or chained in a New York City Walgreens store on December 23, 2022. (Fox News Digital / Fox News)

A new report released by DealAid, provided to Fox News Digital, found that more than 80% of retailers across the country saw an increase in violence associated with thefts in the last year. About 56% of small retail businesses have experienced theft in the past year, and 46% of small businesses have had to raise prices due to shoplifting losses, according to the report.

WHILE WALMART CEO WARNS ABOUT THE IMPACT OF THE CRIME WAVE ON RETAIL, REPORTS SHOW HOW THIEVES BLAMELY STEAL FROM STORES

In addition to installing more private security measures, such as cameras, security guards and staff members dedicated to preventing retail losses, some stores are taking high-tech measures to protect their merchandise.

Vitamin C boxes locked behind plastic in store

Countless pharmacies, grocery stores and other retailers have reduced store opening hours or been forced to close permanently as locked merchandise becomes commonplace to guard against shoplifting and destructive thieves. (FOX NEWS / FoxNews)

Home repair chain Lowe’s has announced a crackdown on power tool thefts, with a new process that would render items virtually unusable once stolen. A new initiative called “Project Unlock” will use RFID chips and scanners to activate power tools when they are purchased.

If a power tool is stolen and not activated at checkout, it will not turn on.

“In recent years, theft – driven largely by organized groups – has increased for the entire retail industry,” Lowe’s said in a December 2022 video announcing the initiative. “The net result has been blocked store experiences that penalize customers.”

“We think there are better ways to curb theft than blocking products.”

lowe's store

Home repair chain Lowe’s has announced a crackdown on power tool thefts, with a new process that would render items virtually unusable once stolen. (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images / Archive / Getty Images)

Home Depot started a similar initiative last year to protect its power tools.

But for many other retailers, blocking merchandise remains the top response to rising crime — especially in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.

WALMART CEO DOUG MCMILLON SAYS THE THEFT IS ‘MORE THAN HISTORIC’

“Everyone is locking down everything. It’s a siege mentality,” Indyme CEO Joe Budano told Forbes last year. Indyme is a San Diego-based company that sells security devices like help buttons that customers press when they need an employee to retrieve something from a locked cabinet, and according to Budano, business grew 40% for the year. past.

Customers at some pharmacies and department stores have seen everything from candy to mascara to nasal spray under lock and key in recent months, leading to frustration.

Target products blocked

Merchandise locked to prevent theft at a Target store in New York City. (Lindsey Nicholson / UCG / Universal Images Group via Getty Images / File / Getty Images)

“I’ve always found it difficult to find a staff member to unlock them,” Arizona’s Roger Evans told Insider last month about why he stopped shopping at Walgreens and CVS for razor blades. “Pharmacies are always understaffed.”

While the security helps prevent theft, it risks losing customers due to the additional wait time for a clerk to unlock a cabinet or product, critics said. Budano estimated that retailers typically see a 15% to 25% drop in sales for customers who refuse to purchase a blocked item, choosing instead to shop online or at a different store.

Some smaller stores that sell high-end merchandise, such as jewelry, are now open by appointment only.

In New York City earlier this month, a jewelry store was targeted by masked robbers who stole up to $2 million worth of jewelry in less than a minute.

The Brooklyn jewelry store will now operate by appointment only until it installs more security measures. It’s a tactic that Madison Avenue stores on the Upper East Side used last year to combat daytime shoplifters, the New York Post reported in April.

SAN FRANCISCO POLICE SECRETLY WATCH RETAIL STORES AND PHARMACIES TO DRIVE SHOPPING DEVELOPMENT

Small business owners who don’t have the funds for a national chain are getting even more creative to protect their inventories.

A bar owner in Houston, Texas, told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” this month that he’s been sleeping in his restaurant to guard against theft.

“This is a big problem in our city right now,” said Raul Jacobo, owner of Cobo’s barbecue. co-host Carley Shimkus. “If I’m frustrated… based on these robberies, I can imagine how families feel about losing loved ones because certain criminals are put back on the street.”

ENCOURAGED SF BUYER SAYS STEALING IS EASY, CITATION SAFETY LACKS WHILE STORE TAKES DRASTIC ACTION

“It’s a very frustrating situation… everywhere… we have no choice but to sleep in our establishments just to protect what’s ours,” he added.

In Philadelphia, a gas station owner has hired private security guards who wear Kevlar vests and are armed with AR-15 rifles or shotguns to protect the establishment.

Last year, San Francisco police scouted popular retailers like Walgreens, Old Navy, Target, Whole Foods, CVS and Macy’s to catch shoplifters and other retail thieves.

Shoplifting and organized retail theft are unlikely to disappear from stores this year, experts said.

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The study published by DealAid shows that retail organized crime increased by 26.5% last year, but the vast majority of retailers, around 68%, do not have departments dedicated to preventing organized retail crime, such as smash-and- grabs.

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